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News / Business / Clark County Business

C-Tran to buy 15 buses: Accordian-style rigs to arrive in 2025 with two more BRT lines coming

Transit agency's board acts in face of limited options

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: February 26, 2024, 6:05am
2 Photos
A view of the various seating levels in C-Tran&rsquo;s bus designed for The Vine. With the closure of Nova Bus Manufacturer&rsquo;s U.S. plant, New Flyer Group is now C-Tran&rsquo;s only option for purchasing the 60-foot articulated buses.
A view of the various seating levels in C-Tran’s bus designed for The Vine. With the closure of Nova Bus Manufacturer’s U.S. plant, New Flyer Group is now C-Tran’s only option for purchasing the 60-foot articulated buses. (The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

With two new bus rapid transit lines scheduled to open in 2027, C-Tran’s board of directors approved the purchase of 15 new 60-foot articulated — accordion-style — buses at February’s board meeting.

The buses are from the New Flyer Group, the same manufacturer of C-Tran’s other 60-foot buses, and are expected to be delivered in 2025.

C-Tran staff originally recommended New Flyer’s buses because of the available sub-components, and it was cheaper than what was offered by the other primary 60-foot bus manufacturer, Nova Bus Manufacturer, said Tim Shellenberger, C-Tran’s chief maintenance officer.

But now, New Flyer is C-Tran’s only option for the 60-foot diesel buses.

In 2023, Nova Bus Manufacturer announced it would discontinue all production in the United States.

“We learned in 2023 that Nova Bus discontinued (manufacturing buses in the U.S.) and it’s like, let’s get this order in simply because we do have a schedule to meet for these new BRT lines opening,” Shellenberger said.

C-Tran officials are limited in what buses they can purchase because of Buy America, a provision that “requires that federal tax dollars used to purchase steel, iron and manufactured goods used in a transit project are produced domestically in the United States,” according to a fact sheet from the Federal Transit Administration.

While Nova Bus is not going out of business, the closure of its U.S. plant means transit projects using Federal Transit Administration money cannot buy its buses because of Buy America. Gillig, the other major bus manufacturer in the U.S., does not make 60-foot buses.

Shellenberger said C-Tran is not presently impacted by Nova Bus discontinuing production in the U.S. He added C-Tran and New Flyer have a strong relationship, and the bus manufacturer helped ensure C-Tran will receive the 15 new buses by 2025.

The new buses will not cost more than $21.8 million: $17 million for the base purchase, $1.5 million for Washington sales tax and $3.4 million in contingency funding. Shellenberger said that although the price is high, if C-Tran waited to purchase it, inflation would make it more expensive.

The buses will replace 22 buses from 2008, which on average have 640,000 miles on them. The federal benchmark is 12 years in service or 500,000 miles. When C-Tran officials retired the 1995 buses in 2015, some had more than 1 million miles on them.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Nova Bus Manufacturer can sell buses in the United States.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.